Early this Monday, a small barrage of rockets struck the Red Sea cities of Eilat, in Israel and Aqaba, in Jordan. The missiles, which appeared to come from the Sinai, inside Egyptian territory, killed one Jordanian man and injured five. While few doubted the main target of the attack was Israel, it was less clear who exactly launched the rockets. Jordanian authorities claimed they had proof the strikes had originated in Egypt, while Egypt promptly blamed Hamas, which quickly denied any responsibility. Once again, Hamas and Egypt found themselves in a familiar position -- on opposite sides of a dispute.
Discussions about the situation in Gaza and about how to deal with Hamas, the Islamic organization that rules the strip, tend to center almost exclusively on the relationship between Hamas and Israel, ignoring a part of the equation that is enormously important: the relationship between Hamas and Gaza's other neighbor, Egypt.
The Egyptian government finds itself in a most uncomfortable position. The blockade of Gaza is usually described as an Israeli operation. In reality, both Israel and Egypt have declared that the territory is under a naval blockade. Similarly, land crossings into Gaza are severely restricted by both governments. As an Arab country, Egypt finds it extremely awkward to act as a full participant in the embargo of Gaza, which is widely reviled throughout the Arab world. But Cairo nevertheless finds it necessary to endure the discomfort.